World Animal Protection (WAP) has downgraded New Zealand’s animal protection ranking.
The new standards will take effect on October 31.
NAWAC chair Dr Gwyneth Verkerk says the amendment sets out new standards to ensure people working with dairy cattle meet their animals’ behavioural needs and adopt high levels of care when keeping dairy cattle in off-paddock facilities, including feed-pads, stand-off pads, wintering pads, and loose-housed and free-stall barns.
“It is very important that dairy cattle can lie down and rest in all management systems, including on pasture, on crops, and in off-paddock facilities,” Verkerk said.
“Dairy cattle like to lie down where it is comfortable and dry. They refuse to lie down on hard, wet or muddy ground and can become stressed as a result.”
She says keeping cows off paddock, especially in the long term, can present risks to animal welfare and the new standards address this.
Dairy cattle kept in off-paddock facilities beyond three days must now be provided with a well-drained lying area with a compressible soft surface or bedding and shelter. NAWAC also wants dairy cattle which are housed long-term to have access to outdoors, but says affected farmers should be given time to comply.
“The Minister of Agriculture has agreed to delayed provisions for outdoor access and his officials will be working with us to determine how to implement these,” Verkerk said.
She says the change is aimed at encouraging people responsible for the welfare of dairy cattle to adopt the highest standards of husbandry, care and handling.